Railway Union did enough to put Ireland in the frame for promotion back up to the third tier of EuroHockey Indoor Club competition thanks to a second place finish in Alanya, Turkey over the weekend.
As 2016 national champs, Railway took up the mantle as Irish representatives but their preparation was far from plain-sailing. They explored their options to bolster their panel, adding Dutchman Arjen van As as a guest from Pembroke, but only travelled with nine players of a potential 12-strong list with local political unrest, travel distance and cost making it difficult to field their strongest line-up.
But, in eventual tournament MVP Kenny Carroll and Bruce Thompson, they had plenty of know-how of the European stage while goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe was named goalkeeper of the competition for his effort.
— Paul OBrien (@PabloPOB) February 12, 2017
They opened up with a 2-2 draw against Greek side Anavrtya on Friday. They fell behind to an early penalty stroke but swapped the lead thanks to a Carroll corner and before Eoin MacArthur made it 2-1.
Edgar van Rijswijk, however, scored the only goal of the second half to open the competition with a draw.
On Saturday, Railway got their first win against Georgia’s Kutaisi 3-1 with Thompson and Tyron Kritzinger netting in the closing nine minutes. A 7-1 loss to hosts Gazianstep Polisgucu was a setback but, on Sunday mornning, a 2-0 success – Kritzinger and Michael Fulham on the mark – against Norway’s Mortensrud-Aker put Railway into the final.
There, they gave Gazianstep a much stronger battle. Aran Rooney shovelled home a solo goal in the 14th minute to level the game, cancelling out Ali Akin Okzilic’s sixth-minute opener.
But Celal Aydin put the Turks back in front at half-time and secured the title with goals Okzilic and Mahmut Cengiz for a 4-1 final result.
Based on previous years, a second place finish in the fourth tier has been enough for promotion to the third tier for 2018 when Three Rock Rovers will be the Irish representatives following their recent win at Queen’s.
Railway Union: S O’Keeffe, K Carroll, A van As, F Kelly, M Fulham, E MacArthur, A Rooney, T Kritzinger, B Thompson
Men’s EuroHockey Indoor Club Challenge II (Alanya, Turkey): Railway Union 2 (K Carroll, E MacArthur) 2 Anvratya (Greece) 2; Railway Union 3 (A Rooney, T Kritzinger, B Thompson) Kutaisi (Georgia) 1; Railway Union 1 (M Fulham) Gazianstep Polisgucu 7; Railway Union 2 (M Fulham, T Kritzinger) Mortensrud-Aker SK (Norway) 0
Group standings: 1. Gazianstep Polisgucu (TUR) 20pts (+33) 2. Railway Union 12pts (-2) 3. Anarvtya (GRE) 8pts (-9) 4. Mortensrud Aker (NOR) 7pts (-10) 5. Kutaisi (GEO) 7pts (-12)
Final: Railway Union 1 (A Rooney) Gazianstep Polisgucu SK (Turkey) 4